Links for the weekend

3rd February 2013

On Friday Netflix made available simultaneously all thirteen episodes of its House of Cards re-make (above). The serial, starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, has had a mixed press – Alessandra Stanley for The New York Times described it as ‘a delicious immorality play with an excellent cast, but the tempo is slow and oddly ponderous’. But it is the innovative release strategy that has attracted most attention. This has been shaped by the recognition that in the age of DVDs and DVRs our viewing habits are changing in fundamental ways. As Brian Selter writes in The New York Times, ‘People have been known to brag about finishing a whole 12-episode season of Homeland in one sitting.’ (We watched just the three shows on Friday night.) Selter is good on the changes, as is Mark Sweney for the Guardian and Tim Carmody for The Verge, who says House of Cards is ‘more like a thirteen-part movie than episodic TV’. Across the jump, more links to more interesting stuff, with recommendation h/ts to among others @nictate, @annehelen, @prodnose, @bergersmicer and @Geoff_Andrew. read more »

Videos for the weekend

2nd February 2013

I have my colleague Todd Macdonald to thank for the weekend’s first clip: a timelapse panorama of the courtyard observed by Jeff (James Stewart, above) in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954). Todd was laid up with a bug for much of the week and instead of spying on his neighbours he watched a lot of stuff online – and chronicled this on a blog post. Jeff Desom‘s remix was one of his discoveries – and it’s a revelatory reworking of the film and the studio space in which it was made. The artist also shows this as an installation. Across the jump there are nine other clips that I encountered during the week that I hope you may enjoy.

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Tempo present and Tempo past

1st February 2013

Thanks to the eclectic and extraordinarily extensive DVD releases from Network we can now see a remarkable range of  ITV programmes from the past forty or so years. Who would have thought that the obscure serial Adam Smith, which was one of Trevor Griffiths’ earliest scriptwriting assignments, would one day have a life beyond its religious programming slot back in 1972? But there it is in the Network catalogue (although oddly available only until 6 February) along with The Persuaders, Sergeant Cork and many more. Network have also released DVDs of single dramas from Armchair Theatre (the link is to Volume 1, and each of the four collections deserve their own blog post) and now – thrillingly for those of us interested in the history of arts television – there is a double DVD of films from the ABC Weekend Television arts magazine series Tempo (1961-67). Today’s post is an introduction to this truly significant release, following which I intend to write some further Friday posts about individual films. read more »

Reprise: Art then, now

29th January 2013

Another post from our archives, this time from 8 March 2011, when I was about to teach a very similar class to the one that I will give at the Royal College of Art tomorrow.

I am delighted to be contributing a quartet of classes to David Crowley’s Critical Writing in Art & Design course at the Royal College of Art. Our first two sessions considered television films about Henry Moore and then Kenneth Clark and Simon Schama. Tomorrow, the third session focusses on alternatives to the dominant traditions of arts programming on British television, and one key example is the 1987 series State of the Art that Illuminations produced for Channel 4. The series is published by us along with an interview with the series’ writer Sandy Nairne (available here as a double DVD for £39.99). It’s one of the major projects with which we’ve been involved and it remains close to the core of the company. And this despite the fact that when it was first shown it was roundly abused by almost everyone.  read more »

Pride and Prejudice: 12 for 200

28th January 2013

I thought others might do this to mark the anniversary today of the publication of Jane Austen’s great and glorious Pride and Prejudice. But as I’ve yet to see such an anthology, I thought I would make one for myself – and anyone else fascinated by how dear Jane has been adapted for the cinema, television and now the web across the years. Here, then, are 12 clips for a 200th birthday. (There were originally 10 clips in this post, but I am grateful to Stuart Ian Burns – see comment below – for pointing out my omission of Lost in Austen, which is now included below, along with the trailer for Bride and Prejudice.)

1. Pride and Prejudice, 1940

Below is the original trailer for the Hollywood adaptation with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier. Robert Z. Leonard directed with Aldous Huxley (!) as one of the credited scriptwriters. The film was derived from the 1936 stage version written by Helen Jerome and is set several decades later than the time of the novel. According to Wikipedia,

The film is substantially different from the novel in a number of ways; most notably, the confrontation near the end of the film between Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth Bennet was radically altered, changing the former’s haughty demand that Elizabeth promise never to marry Darcy into a hoax to test the mettle and sincerity of Elizabeth’s love.

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Links for the weekend

27th January 2013

I’m not going to apologise for leading again with Randy Moore’s Escape from Tomorrow(above), the Sundance-premiered film that was shot in secret at Disney World and Disneyland. I particularly want to draw your attention to It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad Disney world, in which Tim Wu at The New Yorker writes on the ‘fair use’ issues prompted by the film (on which Disney has yet to comment) Wu is spot on when he says that the film

ultimately raises a larger question of what you might call cultural freedom, or the freedom to comment on or reimagine the great cultural icons of our time… a world where Disney gets to determine everything said about Disney World would be a poor place indeed.

Bravo, bravo. Across the jump, more links from the week to stuff about television, digital media and movies, with h/ts for recommendations to @KeyframeDaily, @Chi_Humanities and, as so often, @brainpicker. I realise it’s a slightly austere and downbeat list this week, but that feels like the way of the world at present. read more »

Videos for the weekend

26th January 2013

A selection of interesting videos that I came across during the past week and – well, that’s it really… Above is an image from the Saul Bass title sequence to Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones (1954), a film discussed by Christian Keathley in no 10. below.

1. Richard II, directed by Rupert Goold, BBC, 2012

Why not? Following the news this week that David Tennant is to play the king for the Royal Shakespeare Company in the autumn, here is a brief reminder of last year’s The Hollow Crown presentation (discussed in my blog post here) with Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt chastising Ben Whishaw’s Richard.

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Location London, 1959: Sapphire

25th January 2013

Basil Dearden and Michael Relph‘s 1959 British noir Sapphire is a fascinating and fractured tale of the murder of a young ‘coloured’ woman who has been passing for white. She is found murdered on Hampstead Heath and the police superintendant Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick, exceptional) has to solve the case. The film aspires to an impeccable liberalism but it seems unable to help itself falling for racial stereotypes, especially in a frenzied musical interlude in a Shepherd’s Bush ‘dive’ called Tulip’s. Watching the film this evening (it is released on DVD by Strawberry Media), I was struck that among its many pleasures, along with terrific performances by Earl Cameron and Gordon Heath, Bernard Miles and Yvonne Mitchell, is the glorious Eastmancolor cinematography of Harry Waxman. Almost accidentally the film seems to have captured wonderfully the dingy drabness of London in the late 1950s, as I hope is demonstrated by the framegrabs that follow. read more »

The invisible films of Alan Clarke

23rd January 2013

Why is the work of one of our greatest filmmakers – the director Alan Clarke – all but invisible?

This is not a new question. Nor do I have anything original by way of an answer. But the issue is much on my mind. I wrote a post for the Screen Plays blog about an extraordinary television production of a play – Bertolt Brecht’s Baal, starring David Bowie (above) – that Alan Clarke directed for the BBC in 1982. Then I read Billy Smart’s excellent piece about the same production, which only underlined my sense of how remarkable and astonishing it is. And I realised that I was angry that none of us can legally see this play aside from very occasional BFI Southbank screenings. (An off-air recording of the full production is on YouTube, but I said legally.) Similarly unavailable in this country is one of the most challenging and powerful British films ever made, Elephant (1989; released only in the USA as a R1 DVD). The astounding Contact (1984) is also denied to us. Ditto Danton’s Death(1978) and Penda’s Fen (1974) and Road (1987) and… –the list goes on and on. Whatever the reasons, this is simply and straightforwardly NOT RIGHT. read more »